Growing pains

After 5 years or so of not going 24 hours without a post, I missed one yesterday. And, that’s thanks to my blog being down for over a day. I tried to work with my hosting providers to fix it and not call a dear friend of mine who has helped solve most of my problems over the past years. I figured it is time my hosting providers earned their fees. What followed was a bad 24 hour experience during which about 40 emails were exchanged with nothing done.

It all started with a member of this community emailing with a note about some spam links he spotted on a google search. There were links that basically looked like My hosting support recommended I removed plugins I don’t use. I did. The site went down. The prognosis was that this was my fault and that it would require them to retrieve files. The retrieval would apparently cost me $60. Since $60 is as much as it would cost for a year of hosting, I was shocked. But, I needed the job done.

24 hours later and 40 emails later, nothing was done. This experience was a perfect illustration of a couple of concepts at work –

1. I’ve been experiencing growing pains on ALearningaDay. Over the past couple of years, the blog has moved from a very very small blog to a very small blog. In the process of losing the “very,” we’ve moved to just over 250-300 regular daily unique visits, ~1000 readers on RSS and just over a 1000 email subscribers. While this is miniscule by most standards, the site became interesting enough for hackers and bots to try and redirect traffic. WordPress also has some known vulnerabilities here and I’d switched over to WordPress a year or so ago. So, after a few trysts with a persistent Russian hacker who tried redirecting all mobile traffic on Android to his/her auction site, I’ve seen an ever increasing number of spammy trackback links . And, despite a clean up by my hosting providers when this happened, it is evident that the clean up job wasn’t very thorough.

Ever since my first growing pain issues, it has become apparent to me that I need to find a hosting provider that is better equipped to deal with this. A big part of the issue is likely that my hosting provider just didn’t have the capability to handle these sorts of problems. While these are good problems to have, they are problems nevertheless. Growth comes with growing pains and this was a good reminder.

2. The second lesson here is that it is vital we keep upgrading our infrastructure. What got us here won’t get us there. I started with my current hosting provider 8 years ago and had a decent experience. However, they got expensive over time, got bought over by another company and changed policies left, right and center. A change has felt overdue. However, being human, I’ve been resisting that change. That’s never a good idea.

And, here’s the amazing part – I finally called my friend and asked for help. He solved the problem in 5 minutes. He explained that he faced the same issue a couple of times on another website and had his web hosts solve it.

I’m a big believer in focusing energy on customers that matter. It is very likely that, post restructuring, I’ve been identified as a customer at my web host that is more trouble than value. Either way, the service experience was disappointing. And, my letting it go unsolved for a day was a statement to myself – time to take my business elsewhere and make those much needed upgrades to my infrastructure.

Here’s to making the shift and here’s to no more downtime.